Energy of the Future
There is no doubt that petroleum and coal are the dominant energy sources of today. However, there is also no doubt that those two energy sources really need to fall by the wayside given how they pollute the earth and how they are ostensibly affecting the entire global climate in the form of greenhouse gases and the like. However, actively and completely replacing those two energy sources (and this ignores that petroleum is used for many other things besides energy) is easier said than done and no single energy source has shown itself to be a replacement for coal or petroleum, at least not yet. However, that day will and must come as those energy sources are finite and polluting of our environment. While it is important to shift away from petroleum and coal, it must be done in a way that is organic and does not overly impact and harm the financial and other well-being of consumers.
As noted in the introduction, coal and petroleum dominate the energy spheres of our country but they are also very dirty and polluting when it comes to their use. Even with the existence of catalytic converters and other filters, there is a lot of pollution to be found when it comes to these two energy sources (UCUSA). The inherent problem to replacing them is that there is very much a “chicken and egg” dilemma (BIR). Further, many solutions to the energy problem have created new problems or there is no way that the proposed solutions will fully address the problems. For example, wind turbines are not going to address the energy needs of cars, at least not directly. Further, many people point to companies like Tesla but those companies are heavily subsidized by investors and government and are rarely self-sufficient. Further, Tesla cars (just to name one) are plugged into electrical outlets when it comes to charging and most of those outlets are powered by coal power plants. This is not to say that Tesla and efforts/companies like Tesla should be foregone and abandoned … quite the contrary. Instead, it has to be realized that the progress away from fossil fuels will be incremental and pushing people too hard towards those solutions will not work unless the solutions are affordable and can exist without being propped up by exterior funding such as capital investment and taxpayer money. Eventually, there will need to be a genuine profit motive involved or it just will not happen (Gordon).
Many people say that energy companies like Exxon and Chevron, just to name two, are against innovation and new technology because their cash cow is oil. However, if there was money to be made in the renewable energy sector, the author of this response would argue that they most certainly would jump on the green energy train. Indeed, a lot of renewable energy firms, like Tesla, are heavily subsidized and many of them outright fail despite this support. A widely publicized example was Solyndra. They received a vast amount of government largesse in the form of a giant loan and the company ended up going belly-up (Stephens, and Leonnig).
However, it would be unwise to not embrace the fact that petroleum and coal need to be replaced. Just as one example, the sun would be a single go-to solution if the energy from it could be harnessed with such a magnitude as to power our homes and cars. This is being done in part by many people that are early adopters but many to most of them use the conventional power grid as a contingency because the solar power technology is just not “there” yet. In the end, the author of this report thinks that hydrogen is the long-term answer when it comes to energy. It is superior to wind and sun power in that the weather will not impact them. It is also superior in how cleanly it burns and how abundant hydrogen is. As noted before, the “chicken and egg” dilemma is the real problem. Hydrogen cell cars are already in existence but the infrastructure to fuel and maintain those cars is just not there. It’s very much present in California but is hit or miss just about anywhere else (UCUSA). The only real alternative that has established any sort of network of suppliers and such is Tesla but that is really only in major cities and on major interstates (Tesla).
President Obama just suggested a new $10 per barrel tax on gasoline but that would be a mistake (Grunwald). It is highly unlikely that this tax would be reversed if gas prices go to where they were some years ago (in the $3 to $4 per gallon range) and this tax would hit the poor the hardest just like many flat taxes (e.g. sales taxes) do. At the same time, it would be unwise for the GOP to refuse to invest more money in renewable energies as this is indeed what needs to happen over the long-term. Both sides need to understand that energy source changes need to happen but it needs to happen at a sane pace. This allows for the development to happen but not at the expense of the working class people of this country who are severely affected by any swing in costs that are not optional such as gas and electricity.
In the end, progress is indeed being made on many fronts when it comes to electricity and gasoline. Electricity use over the last decade is mostly flat. Whether it be better gas mileage on cars, LED televisions that often use less than $30 in power per year or consumer-level solar panels and other power-saving options like LED light bulbs, the solutions are already coming. As noted before, pushing for progress is fine but doing so on the backs of the poor and/or when the market solution is just not there will not work nearly as well as a more metered and delicate approach. Gas companies should not be coddled but consumers/taxpayers should not be treated like petulant children.
BIR. “Solving The Chicken And The Egg Problem: Increasing Natural Gas Demand And Building Pipeline — News & Media.” Bipc.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
Gordon, Kate. “Why Renewable Energy Still Needs Subsidies.” WSJ. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
Grunwald, Michael. “Obama To Propose $10-A-Barrel Oil Tax.” The Agenda. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
Stephens, Joe, and Carol Leonnig. “Solyndra Scandal — Full Coverage Of Failed Solar Startup – The Washington Post.” Washingtonpost.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
Tesla. “Tesla Motors — Premium Electric Vehicles.” Teslamotors.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
UCSUSA. “Our Energy Choices: Coal And Other Fossil Fuels.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
UCSUSA. “How Do Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Work?.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., 2016. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.